Why are people hungry?

About this Collection

What do I want to find out?

What pupils know and think about the causes and consequences of hunger around the world and what can be done about it.

What do I need?

  • Nine opaque pots with lids, each with a hole big enough for a bean to pass through.
  • A bowl of beans.
  • A sheet to record the number of beans placed in each pot.
  • Nine cards showing possible reasons why people may be hungry. Choose from the following cards or create your own. You may prefer to use the terminology Majority World/poor countries, or Minority World/rich countries.

There are too many people

People can’t grow enough food because of wars

People in rich countries don’t give enough in aid or charity


The international trading system is unfair to poor countries


Food grown on the best farmland in poor countries is sold to rich countries


Climate change means floods or drought in poor countries


Corruption and bad government in poor countries


People are too poor to buy enough food


People in poor countries are not paid enough for what they grow


People in rich countries want to pay less for the things they buy, so wages in poor countries stay low


Many big companies don’t pay the taxes they should in poor countries


Farmers in poor countries don’t use new ways of growing more food


None of these


I don’t know

What do I do?

Timing: 10 minutes

  • Arrange the nine cards beside the nine pots.
  • With the pupils in groups, give each of them three beans to vote for their preferred answers. Ask them why they think people are hungry.
  • Explain they can vote for three different reasons, putting one bean in each of three pots, or two and one, or put all three beans in one pot.
  • Read each label out and clarify what it means, this allows pupils time to consider how they want to vote.
  • When they have each decided pupils should vote, putting their beans into the pots at the same time, to minimise influencing each other.
  • Pupils count the beans in each pot and record the numbers.
  • Keep a record of the scores and any explanations or comments.

How do I analyse the results?

  • Collate the results: add up the scores from the whole class and work out the percentage of votes for each reason.
  • Consider the explanations and comments. Is there a prevailing view?
  • To what extent are overpopulation, poverty and fall in charitable giving blamed as causes of hunger?
  • Is it assumed that hunger only exists in the Majority World? Is hunger in the UK and Europe viewed differently from hunger in Africa for example?

How do I measure the change?

  • When you repeat the activity in exactly the same way at least a year later, pupils can compare the two sets of responses, look for change and think about what influenced that change.
  • Look for a decrease in responses blaming overpopulation, corruption and lack of aid.
  • Look for a corresponding increased awareness of interdependence e.g. the extent to which we depend on imported food and eat food grown in countries in the Majority World where people are malnourished.
  • To what extent do pupils show an understanding of the barriers to international trade in food, and appreciate that some Minority World countries subsidise their food exports, which makes it harder for Majority World countries to compete.